Meet our Newest Partner School: Rosenwald Collegiate Academy
FLYTE’s mission is to empower youth through transformative travel experiences, which means that our goal is to get as many students onto planes and out into the world as possible.
But, in a post-COVID-19 world, that’s not actually possible.
Our team had a brief moment of panic and dread when the gravity of our global health crisis started becoming a reality. FLYTE was on track to have its most impactful year yet. (Spoiler alert: we were about to launch applications for our second school partner of the year!)
However, those negative emotions were soon replaced by so much hope and inspiration. As the weeks progressed, we were thrilled by the community’s continued support of our mission. Our alumni have shared with us all of the incredible things they’re doing now – like starting tutoring programs for their community or curating a virtual communal library of works and topics on the Black Diaspora.
Our donor community reached out to us to let us know how vital our programming will be once we can safely travel again. We’ve actually seen an increase in new donors. During our virtual community meet-ups, lots of you were so moved by our students’ stories that you offered to volunteer your time to make sure that FLYTE weathers this storm.
Grateful is an understatement and we know that, because of this community, our work will continue.
Right before the pandemic made itself known, we were about to announce this year’s school partner. As the months wore on, we never thought the timing was right to talk about taking students abroad again. Travel is still very limited and our world is still reeling from the impacts of the virus.
Like the lessons that travel teaches – we’re learning to embrace the unknown, really listen and pay attention to the needs of our community, and do the best that we can to navigate a foreign situation.
After talking at length with our partner teachers and students, we feel like now is the time to celebrate them! They’re about to start school again and are eager to start learning to prepare for their postponed trip. We want to share their story and their journey, and this starts with you!
Meet Rosenwald Collegiate Academy, an amazing high school based in New Orleans, Louisiana who will be traveling to Puerto Rico!!
This incredible school’s philosophy is “All means All” which is a commitment to meeting the needs of all students, all families, and all community members regardless of zip code and other demographic variables. With a majority BIPOC population, Rosenwald celebrates equity, inclusion, and triumphs diversity through rigorous classroom instruction, social innovation, and cultural authenticity. The goal for all students: college success and lives of limitless opportunity.
They do everything they can to serve each and every student’s unique needs. The majority of the students who attend Rosenwald are youth of color and many of them continue to face circumstances that present significant challenges for their personal and academic journeys. Despite all these obstacles, they persevere in so many exceptional ways. “They are creative, authentic, and work incredibly hard to get through high school. Their goal is college, and the choices they make every day push them closer to that goal.”
This is how Erica Perez & Angela Filardo, the teachers who will be leading this trip, described these remarkable students in their FLYTE application.
Last March, when the students found out that they have this once in a lifetime opportunity to travel to Puerto Rico – this was their reaction.
This is why we do what we do. These youth are our future. They surmount obstacles daily and are incredibly resilient. We’re so honored to be able to partner with them so that they can step foot onto a plane for the first time and see the world.
Puerto Rico, in many ways, is the ideal destination for this group of students.
Puerto Rico and New Orleans have faced comparable struggles on so many levels. The trip will address that by focusing on sustainability and climate change. Both areas have a similar environmental landscape and face similar challenges. The students have demonstrated interest in creating policy changes and this trip will give them so much practical information and context as they work with locally led organizations focused on coastal restoration and reforestation.
On top of all that, the students will also explore the cultural and historical parallels between New Orleans and Puerto Rico. Erica & Angela have plans for them to also learn about agricultural and food production so their students can investigate how the economy, slave-trade, American occupation, and other geographical factors have contributed to the traditional food choices on the island.
This is an opportunity for us to create sustainable change. Rosenwald is a brand new school, founded in 2018. The students traveling with FLYTE are currently 11th graders and will be Rosenwald’s first graduating class in 2022. They have continually inspired the school’s faculty and staff in how they’ve actively formed their own community, a “warm, student-focused environment where everyone is seen and heard.”
These students are at the core of what we do and their safety is our highest priority. We’re incredibly aware of the fact that it’s still a precarious situation for students to be together in a classroom, which means that putting them on a plane can be an even greater risk.
This trip will only happen when regulatory agencies, school administration, and science-backed evidence tell us it’s safe to travel again. We will require that all our students and chaperones receive a vaccine, when it’s available, to ensure their safety as well as the safety of the communities they will visit in Puerto Rico.
Right now, we hope for this trip to take place in the summer of 2021, but if circumstances change and we have to postpone even further, then we’ll do that.
In the meantime, we are working in partnership with the schools to create virtual programming so our students can prepare for their journey from the safety of their homes (Rosenwald is starting their school year remotely). With everything that’s happening, we know this is an opportunity to bring joy and excitement to these incredible young people.
As these students begin the school year, we’re cheering for them as they navigate the road ahead. Even during these times, we want to show them how great the world is and how to best prepare themselves to travel for the first time. When they do so next year (fingers crossed), they will be armed with an abundance of practical tips like how to pack and budget for a trip to ways they can become responsible travelers and minimize carbon footprints while abroad.
We’re so grateful to our FLYTE Community that continues to advocate for these remarkable youth. We can’t wait to share more about them and what they’re learning. When they step off that plane, they’ll be ushering in a new era of young change-makers working to rebuild our global community.
Carmela is FLYTE’s Executive Director. She’s also a non-profit & data science consultant, math enthusiast, remote worker, and self-proclaimed chocolate chip cookie connoisseur. Since 2012, she’s been intentionally creating a life that combines her love for youth empowerment, travel, statistics, and social impact.